TechBits: Gender differences; Rhapsody music; Dangers of shortened links; iPad costs
(Canadian Press DataFile Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) NEW YORK _ In a sharp reversal, more young women are now embracing online communities than their male counterparts, a new study says.
By contrast, men are showing some signs of ``networking fatigue,'' with fewer men saying that their online communities are as important as their offline equivalents.
The shift in attitudes between the two sexes has taken place over just a couple of years.
Researchers at the University of Southern California are reporting this week that 67 per cent of women under 40 said they feel as strongly about their Internet communities as their offline ones, while only 38 per cent of men said the same.
In 2007, the numbers were just the reverse, with 69 per cent of the men and 35 per cent of the women feeling that way.
Internet communities don't just mean social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, but include online gathering sites focused on hobbies, politics or spirituality.
Michael Gilbert, senior fellow at USC's Annenberg Center for the Digital Future, said women tend to adopt new technologies more slowly than men, but once they do, they catch up and often surpass men in their enthusiasm.
Men made up the bulk of the shoppers who lined up Saturday to get their hands on Apple's new iPad in many cities including Seattle and New York, but that doesn't mean that gender disparity is permanent.
Gilbert said women are finding deeper connections to Web communities because many of them go there for social reasons rather than to find information about hobbies, for example. Men, especially those from 25 to 39, are disengaging from social networks.
``The infatuation is over,'' he said.
In 2005, 77 per cent of men under 40 said their online community was ``extremely important.'' That number has now dropped to 39 per cent.
The latest findings are part of the Annenberg Center's decade-long study of 2,000 families and their digital habits. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 per centage points.
_ Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer
Rhapsody cuts monthly music plan to $10 at spinoff
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Subscription music service Rhapsody is dropping its monthly price to $9.99 from $14.99, hoping that loads of iPhone users who sampled it will now pay for all-you-can-listen access.
Several companies have announced their intention to launch similar music plans that let people listen to songs that are stored on remote computers and streamed to their smart phones wirelessly. Such music services, based on so-called ``cloud'' computing, are challenging Apple Inc.'s system of having consumers buy and download tracks for playback on iPhones and iPods.
The subscription plans have yet to take off. But as cellphone networks have gotten faster and more capable of handling large amounts of data, more companies are beginning to offer cloud-based music services.
Apple itself is believed to be developing a cloud-based music offering after its acquisition in December of Lala.com. That site lets people purchase songs to stream online from a digital locker for 10 cents apiece.
Rhapsody says it has an advantage over other subscription plans because it has an established user base _ about 675,000 at the end of 2009. Also, it has cash to spend after spinning off last week from parents RealNetworks Inc. and Viacom Inc. Rhapsody got $18 million from RealNetworks and a $33 million credit from Viacom so it can buy advertising on Viacom cable channels such as MTV and VH1 to fuel a new marketing campaign. Each company still retains a large minority stake in Rhapsody of around 47.5 per cent.
Jon Irwin, the president of the newly independent company, Rhapsody International Inc., said the company plans to be profitable by the end of the year. Rhapsody has annual revenue of about $130 million but has seen its subscriber base fall from a peak of 800,000 in the first quarter of last year.
Sensing a shift in consumers' habits, recording companies have recently agreed to lower the royalty rates they demand from subscription services, in hopes of giving the services the potential to grow faster. Sales of songs on Apple's iTunes have yet to offset the decline in CD sales.
Rhapsody launched an iPhone application in September that allowed plays of some 9.5 million songs as long as the device was within cellphone or wireless Internet range. Although 1.5 million people downloaded the application, very few signed up to pay after the seven-day free trial period. Most users said the service was too expensive, Irwin said.
Current subscribers of the Rhapsody To Go service will be kept on the more expensive plan, which allows usage on multiple mobile devices, unless they opt to scale down to the $9.99 Rhapsody Premier plan, which works on only one device.
Rhapsody also is launching an application for smart phones that use Google Inc.'s Android operating system.
_ Ryan Nakashima, AP Business Writer
Shortened links may not be as malicious as thought
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Link-shortening services such as TinyURL seem ideal for criminals because they can disguise the names of malicious sites. Yet on Twitter _ one of the most popular places for them _ they may not be nearly as malicious as many industry experts fear, according to new security research.
Zscaler Inc., a company that sells security services, studied 1.3 million shortened links taken from Twitter over two weeks, before Twitter began in early March to examine such links for malicious content. Just 773 of those links _ a mere 0.06 per cent _ led to malicious content.
Link-shortening services convert long Web addresses into shorter ones. They have become more popular as people spend more time on social-networking sites and share with their friends links to photos, news articles and other tidbits. They are especially important on Twitter, which restricts its posts to 140 characters.
Criminals can use them to trick people into visiting malicious sites because the links carry the names of the shortening services, such as Bit.ly or TinyURL, rather than the actual addresses of the sites.
Julien Sobrier, senior security researcher with Zscaler, said users seem to be paying more attention to such links because they know they are being taken elsewhere.
``Twitter's shortened URLs (links) aren't trusted by users,'' he said. ``You know the link you're seeing is not where you'll actually go.''
And if users are going to be suspicious, criminals have less incentive to use them.
Sobrier said the study shows that other sites, such as search engines, are more trusted because they're considered more sophisticated at filtering the content they present. So criminals are better off manipulating search results to push their malicious links to the top of the rankings, he said.
It's hard to get a sense of how many of the links overall on Twitter are harmful, and how many are ultimately blocked by Twitter and the link-shortening services.
Twitter and TinyURL representatives did not respond to messages for comment. Bit.ly would say only that the rate of malicious links Zscaler found is in line with Bit.ly's own statistics.
Still, harmful content abounds from shortened links. Another research firm, ESET LLC, said last week that it found more than 1,000 malicious shortened links on Twitter that tried to infect people's computers as they looked for information on the Moscow subway bombings.
_ Jordan Robertson, AP Technology Writer
On the Net:
Research firm puts $499 iPad costs at $259.60
The iPad may promise a computing revolution, but Apple's new gadget is also a pile of glass, metal and electronic innards _ $259.60 worth, or about half the retail price, according to an independent estimate.
After taking the iPad apart and adding up the estimated costs of the components, the market research firm iSuppli said the low-end version of Apple's new gadget costs about $250.60 in parts. Manufacturing costs $9 more. Combined, that's 52 per cent of the $499 price for that model.
That doesn't mean Apple's making a nearly 50 per cent profit. There are development costs, marketing and other factors to take into account. Apple didn't immediately return a request for comment.
ISuppli's analysis, released Wednesday, does offer some sense of what you're paying for.
A lot of the cost, it turns out, is that sleek, user-friendly touch screen. Each iPad contains an estimated $109.50 worth of components that provide the user interface, or about 44 per cent of the total cost of the parts. For instance, just the glass display, which measures 9.7-inch diagonally, costs $65.
Second in cost in the low-end, 16-gigabyte version is the memory, which runs about $30. Then comes the battery for $21.
Apple began selling the iPad on Saturday starting at $499. Versions with more memory run $599 and $699, and the company plans to start selling models with cellular wireless capability later this month, starting at $629. The versions now out offer only Wi-Fi wireless connections.
_ Andrew Vanacore, AP Business Writer
(c) 2010 The Canadian Press
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